Foreign Military Relations of Pakistan

Pakistan Military Relations consist of China relationship with Pakistan that holds significant meaning for both countries regarding common interest and regional strategy.

The partnership was initially formed to counter the regional effects and military threat posed by India and the Soviet Union. In recent times the friendship has deepened more: China and Pakistan have signed several mutual-defense treaties.

China has been a regular source of Army Equipment and has collaborated with Pakistan in setting-up weapons production and modernization facilities. Both countries are actively involved in many joint projects to improve each other’s military needs.

Both countries are developing and producing the JF-17 Thunder fighter jet, and the K-8 Karakorum advanced training aircraft, the Al-Khalid tank, airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) systems, and many different projects.

The two states have held some joint military activities to improve co-operation between their armed forces. China is also the largest investor in the Gwadar Deep Sea Port, strategically located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz.

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South Asian countries

Before 1971, Pakistan’s army had a significant presence in East Pakistan and an active theatre-level military command.

The state did not restore Full diplomatic relations until 1976 after Bangladesh’s independence. Relations improved considerably under the Bangladesh army governments of President Major Ziaur Rahman and General Hossain Mohammad Ershad.

Shared interests over India’s regional power have changed strategic co-operation, leading to a gift of many units of F-6 fighter aircraft to the Bangladesh Air Force in the late 1980s.

Pakistan Army personnel saluting in British-style, palms facing outward.
Pakistan Army personnel saluting in British-style, palms facing outward

After being punished by India, Great Britain, and the United States in 2004 and 2006 for controlling democracy.

The Nepalese government developed military relations with China and Pakistan, which offered generous support, arms, and equipment for the monarchy’s struggle to stay in power in the front of a Maoist insurgency.

When India proved resistant to supply Sri Lanka with weapons, the insurgency-plagued island state turned to Pakistan.

In May 2000, Tamil Tiger independents about to recapture their former capital of Jaffna. Pakistan President Musharraf gave millions of dollars of much-needed weapons to the Sri Lankan government.

In May 2008, Lt-Gen Fonseka of the Sri Lanka Army held discussions with his Pakistan Army compliments regarding military equipment, weapons, and ammo.

Pakistan finalized the sale of 22 Al-Khalid main battle tanks to the Sri Lanka Army during these talks, worth over US$100 million.

In April 2009, Sri Lanka requested $25 million worth of 81 mm, 120 mm, and 130 mm mortar ammunition, to be delivered within a month, which showed decisively in the defeat of the Tamil Tigers.

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United States and NATO

Throughout its past, Pakistan has had an up and down army relationship with the United States. During times of co-operation, US military funding and training have improved the Pak Armed Forces.

American Chairman of Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen reviews Pakistani troops during a ceremony honoring Mullen's arrival in Islamabad in 2008
American Chairman of Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen reviews Pakistani troops during a ceremony honoring Mullen’s arrival in Islamabad in 2008

On the other hand, the cutoff of US support at critical circumstances has led to bitter disillusionment. These wide swings of fortune are something to which the Pakistanis have become usual, and they recognize that, whatever the provocation, the relationship with the United States has too much potential advantage to be dismissed lightly.

In support of the United States’ 2001 attack on Afghanistan, Pakistan Armed Forces got massive military aid, funding, and training.

According to the Ministry of Finance estimates, in the three years before the 11 September attacks, Pakistan received approximately $9 million in American military aid; in the three years after, the amount increased to $4.2 billion.

General Peter Pace salutes Pakistani servicemen
General Peter Pace salutes Pakistani servicemen

Pakistan has managed strong military-to-military relationships with the 28 member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

NATO regards its ties with Pakistan as “partners over the globe.” With the assistance of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Pakistan nominated a “major non-NATO ally” in 2004.

From the 2000s, armed relationships have improved between the Pakistan Armed Forces and the Russian armed forces.

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Middle Eastern countries

Pakistan’s close relations to the Middle East nations, based on geography and shared religion, have led to frequent military deployments since the 1960s.

Pakistan Navy ships deployed in the Arabian Sea, near Oman
Pakistan Navy ships deployed in the Arabian Sea, near Oman

The Arab world countries – many of them rich but with small populations and limited armies – have historically depended on regional troops to provide a shielding umbrella and military muscle during instability and crisis times.

Pakistani Military has maintained an incredibly close relationship with Saudi Arabia, a sporadically generous supporter: much of the military equipment purchased from the United States by Pakistan in the 1980s was paid for by Saudi Arabia.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait also have been great sources of financial aid.

Pak Army official works as army guides and instructors to Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and the UAE. Pak Air Force, Navy, and Army personnel performed essential roles in building the UAE military.

Multiple Arab Army officials have got an education at Pakistan’s military staff academies. A warfare division run by Major-General Zia-ul-Haq was useful in putting down the Palestinian Black September uprising against King Hussein in Jordan in the early 1970s.

Pakistan has appreciated excellent military co-operation with the Iranian military since the 1950s. Iranian leader Mohammad Reza Shah gave free fuel to PAF fighter jets in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, allowing Pakistani aircraft to land at Iranian Air Force bases, refuel, and take off.

Pakistan Navy Soldiers


The army relationship maintained even after the Iranian revolution, as Pakistan was among the first countries to recognize the new Iranian government.

As a result of Tehran’s hostage crisis, the United States cut off its ties with Iran, leading Iran to send its military officers and personnel to get an education at Pakistani Military Academies.

Relations became complex following the Soviet-Afghan War when hundreds of foreign fighters (mostly Sunni Arabs) arrived in Pakistan to participate in the Afghan Jihad.

Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haq’s military administration policy showed extremist aspects towards the Shia. It caused religious tensions to rise between Sunni and Shia in Pakistan. Throughout the Iran–Iraq War, the Arab countries and the United States supported Iraq to pressure Pakistan to stop its secret support and army funding for Iran.

The 1980s were a hard time in both countries military relations, as Iran was blamed for the increasing ethnic tensions between Sunnis and Shias in Pakistan.

The relationship became worse in the 1990s when the Taliban started their Afghanistan rule with Pakistan’s support. In 1998, Iran and Afghanistan were on the edge of war over the killing of Iranian ambassadors.

Iran’s relations with India improved during this time by supporting the Northern union against the Taliban. The situation became normal in 2000 when Pakistan and Iran were restoring their trade relations.

With the rise of the 11 September attacks in the US and the fall of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran started rebuilding their military relations.

After years, diplomatic delegations have been exchanged, and Pakistan has accepted to sell army equipment to Iran.

Also, Pakistan has maintained strong military-to-military relations with Turkey. It would like to use these and its Iranian connections to bridge the new Muslim states of Central Asia.

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